Lava claims final home in Royal Gardens Subdivision

Published: Mar. 3, 2012 at 10:18 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2012 at 3:36 AM HST
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Jack Thompson
Jack Thompson

ROYAL GARDENS, Hawaii Island (HawaiiNewsNow) - After years of watching Madame Pele's power up close, Jack Thompson's house in the Royal Gardens subdivision on the Big Island was finally been claimed by lava. A tin roof and a water catchment tank were the only parts left of the home.

Jack Thompson, 61, has watched Kilauea Volcano wipe out most of his neighborhood for nearly 30 years. There were 1,500 residential lots in the subdivision. 75 homes were built before the 1983 eruption. On Friday, lava erupting from the Puu Oo Crater four miles above Thompson's home was rapidly closing in.

"I was thinking that maybe I would dodge the bullet again, but we were keeping an eye on it." said Thompson.

The lava burned its way through a thick forest behind his home and scorched what was left of Hoku Street to the east.

"It's so much around me now that I've become a low spot and it's pouring in here. If it could go anyplace else, but once it starts pouring in here, it's going to take everything," he said.

By 3 o'clock on Friday afternoon, Thompson and videographer Leigh Hilbert decided to evacuate. Two helicopters arrived to carry them to safety.

"I'd check the lava once in awhile and the methane explosions are getting louder and louder and getting closer. You could feel kind of a tension building about that," said Hilbert.

"Just certain amount of stuff you've gotta take," said Thompson. "I'm leaving most everything cause I figured a long time ago it was already donated to the mountain."

With the roads destroyed, Thompson had been walking roughly four miles to get supplies.

"Hauling a pretty heavy backpack out there every week so I'm not going to miss that part," said Thompson.

But, Thompson considered his remote home paradise. In the end, he left with mixed emotions.

"Little but of everything. Little bit of regret. Little bit of sorrow. Little bit of relief," said Thompson. "I'll do something else."

Thompson took a helicopter ride on Saturday evening to see the aftermath for himself. He is now staying at his other home in Ainaloa as he figures out what to do next.

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